LOS ANGELES — Their dogs play among canvases, rags and spray cans. They squeezed into the car and headed to exhibitions far away from each other. They sometimes share paint supplies.
In a competitive art world, the painters who come to the Boyle Heights community to share studios represent an unusual model of how artists nurture and support each other.
“Before I felt disconnected from other artists,” says Alfonso Gonzalez Jr., one of the studio’s tenants. “Then I met these people. They got it.”
Over the past few years, Gonzalez, Mario Ayala, Devin Reynolds, Rafa Esparza, and Sonya Sombreuil, among others—mostly in their 30s—have found their way to an unremarkable stretch of South Anderson Street near the Los Angeles River. warehouse space.
Their studio in Boyle Heights has become a gallery destination (hence the complaints of gentrification), In part reflects the energy from a new generation of Mexican-American artists.
“Something important is happening in the culture that’s surfacing right now,” said gallerist Jeffrey Dyche, who shows many of the studio’s artists. “Los Angeles is predominantly Latino, so it’s going to be more and more influential.”
While they each rent different-sized workspaces and paint in different styles, the artists are easily in and out of each other’s studios, chatting, and being invited to give advice.
“It helps relieve all the stress, just being able to share space,” says Reynolds, whose dreamy mural-like paintings combine imagery and text. “I’m excited to now be able to challenge their paintings with so many people.”
For example, for “Made in Los Angeles,” Ayala focus on The underground magazine “Junior Angel” recorded cholo Street culture of the late 20th century, featuring artwork, photographs, and essays by Chicanos associated with gangs or imprisoned.
including “broken glass” Two Ayala paintings On the rear of the pickup, the image features a flying saucer, cactus, dice, and a gun barrel.
“I’m not just looking for individual talent — I’m looking for a community of artists,” said Deitch, a longtime gallery owner. “If you go back to the beginnings of modernism and beyond, almost always artistic innovators were part of the community – from Matisse and Picasso and Braque to Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism.
“It’s so much more than a traditional studio, it’s just an artist doing a painting job,” Deitch continued. “They walked through each other’s studios and pitched each other.”
The artists share a common culture of sign painting, graffiti, airbrush techniques, truck stops, and low-speed cars. They share common interests in music, fashion and skateboarding. They paint their families, friends and communities – the people and places that shape them.
Ayala’s father is a truck driver. Gonzalez’s father was a billboard painter. Reynolds’ father worked on a fishing boat. This tradition is repeated in their work.
Gonzalez painted beauty salons and barbershops. “I see these as landscapes,” he said. “I’m interested in changes in the community. I want to draw people who feel familiar.”
Gonzalez said he got tired of logo painting and started learning about artists on YouTube, especially inspired by Cy Twombly and Ed Ruscha. “Rothko reminds me of a big graffiti buff marker,” he said. “As long as I can afford rent and art supplies, I create art.”
In 2020, Gonzalez joined the Boyle Heights studio, where he says he pays about $2,000 a month, which is pretty reasonable rent. “Everything I did I put it back,” he said.
Rafa Esparza, his work handmade adobe brick – a skill he learned from his father – recently appeared in Volkswagen MOCAhad to go through Ayala’s studio to get to his own— “Daily check-ins,” he said, allow for “unique conversations about our work.”
Some of the group had formal art education, including Ayala, who graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2014 and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture the same year, and Reynolds, who earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Tulane University. 2017.
“He created this fusion between traditional and industrial painting techniques,” says Deitch, “between Old Masters and Autobots.”
Some artists have gallery representation. (Matthew Brown recently took over Gonzalez; Kordanski Gallery took over Ayala.)
“Alfonso took note of aspects of the Los Angeles landscape that we often overlook,” Brown said, “and used them to construct his own visual language, both familiar and new.”
Their paintings sell for relatively modest prices—Reynolds’s on paper sell for about $2,500; his paintings top out at about $65,000. Gonzalez said he charged $10,000 to $50,000.
“I saw a lot of people’s markets soar,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t care about money, I care about where it goes and whether I can do it for the rest of my life.”
They spared no effort to participate in each other’s exhibitions; they went Ayala and Henry Gunderson’s performance at Ever Gold [Projects] gallery in San Francisco last summer, and plans to attend Ayala’s show at Deitch’s New York gallery in September.
Last August, Gonzalez and his partner Diana Yesenia Alvarado planned a two-day pop-up show,”the city is too hot,” showcases some of the artists currently working in Southern California. Gonzalez has his first solo exhibition February at Matthew Brown. Reynolds’ performance The Palm Springs Art Museum opens April 22.
for Made in Los Angeles, Sombreuil has created a gallery, performance space, music venue, screening room and storefront to showcase her own limited edition merchandise. (she runs a fashion brand Come to three links.) She said the Boyle Heights studio helped her rediscover her roots as an artist. “It’s cross-pollination of ideas,” Sombreuil said, “and a flow that benefits everyone.”
Traffic includes Sombreuil’s brother, furniture maker Noah, and Fulton Leroy Washington (known as Mr. Walsh), he began painting while serving a sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, and has also appeared in the Hammer Biennial and “Broken Glass.” Working in the studio allowed Washington to prepare a large canvas that he couldn’t fit in the workspace of his apartment, and to connect with other artists.
“In prison, I didn’t have the experience of being with so many geniuses,” he said. “Art and art complement each other. It’s really inspiring.”
Friendship manifests on their canvases. Unlike the winking comments of artists like Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Marcel Duchamp, their work is imbued with genuine humanity. “There is no irony in this work,” Deitch said. “It represents a very important shift in how the younger generation approaches art.
“Because of the culture of seeing the world on the iPhone screen, there is a strong desire to go back to things that relate to real life,” he added. “The work of all these artists is very relevant to real life.”